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Notes & Quotes: Michigan State Football kicks off fall camp

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Mel Tucker and several players spoke to the media following the first practice of the 2021 season.

2021 Big Ten Football Media Day Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Michigan State football team kicked off its fall camp on Thursday, and media was invited for a midday presser to ask questions about the upcoming season. The Only Colors was in attendance.

Head coach Mel Tucker started things off. He liked what he saw from his team on this first day of practice.

“I felt good about today,” Tucker said. “We were efficient, we were effective...it was just about fundamentals...smart, fast, and physical...a lot of full speed work.” Tucker then ended his opening statement with, “I’m looking forward to seeing the film.”

Many of the questions focused around all the new players that have been added to this squad. Michigan State added well over 30 players to the 2021 roster between transfers and true freshmen

“Coaching is teaching, we have to teach, motivate, and develop,” Tucker said, “Continue to connect with our guys...we have the infrastructure here...the culture is strong...we work with the new guys, it’s attention to detail, a sense of urgency...the culture of accountability those are the things that really make the difference...it’s a work in progress, but I feel good about where we are right now.”

When asked about his top concern going into camp, Tucker had a few comments.

“The objective of the camp is to get better, and build your team,” Tucker said. “That’s at every position offense, defense, and special teams...we’re growing, gaining ground...we’re developing and things will shake out more as we go.”

The quarterback debate was a huge point of emphasis during Tucker’s media availability, and although Tucker kept his answers vague, he let us all know that he is watching and things will eventually shake out during camp.

“We will be able to make a determination,” Tucker said. “But after the first day I liked what I saw in general...we are going to play the best players.”

Redshirt senior running back Connor Heyward was the first player to take questions. He led with a positive and excited attitude and it was evident that he was ready to take on a more leadership role for this upcoming season.

When asked about this new squad Heyward said, “There is a lot of new guys, but I feel like the competition has gone up...I think Coach Tucker and the staff have made a lot of good additions...I feel like this is closest the team has been since my freshman year.”

As a leader on this squad, Heyward had a lot to say about the culture of this team and mentioned that if anyone is not doing their job they are all able to push each other to keep working harder.

“The leaders are finally pulling other guys,” Heyward said. “We are all pushing each other to be great...we are not letting anybody just slack off.”

When discussing the running backs, Heyward mentioned that they are more confident than last year and feels that it’s not just them, as he also brought up the offensive lineman and the quarterbacks playing more confidently.

“It’s crazy, everybody is good at everything,” Heyward said when asked about the talent in the running back room. “You can see the strides from spring ball until now.”

Hear all of Connor Heyward’s interview here:

Quarterback transfer Anthony Russo (Temple) stepped up next for questions. I have to say, he was all smiles and based off his answers, it was evident that he has fully embraced being a Spartan.

“The excitement for me personally is through the roof,” Russo said. “Being able to have the whole summer around these guys, get to know them more, get to know the playbook more...and then being able to come out here and show the work that I have done all summer...the excitement if through the roof.”

Russo and Heyward are roommates, and many of the questions focused around that relationship and what it has meant to him.

“I am not used to being at a big school, a college town...since I got here, Connor kind of took me under his wing...and showed me the ropes...showed me the true culture of this place...that was super important to me.”

When asked about the friendly competition at the quarterback position with Payton Thorne and others, Russo answered confidently.

“I am as motivated as I have ever been,” Russo stated. “I didn’t come here to sit around, I came here to play, I came here to win a championship...I don't sleep at night sometimes because I am so excited to get up the next morning to come here and work some more...it dials up everyday.”

Hear all of Anthony Russo’s interview here:

Fellow quarterback contender Payton Thorne was last to round out the interviews, and he spoke like a veteran player, and gave some more insight into the healthy competition that has already started for the starting quarterback spot.

“I thought it was a good day,” Throne started. “I thought we were efficient out there...I thought guys were moving at a good tempo...and pretty good execution for day one.”

He talked highly of the team and how the players have come together. When asked about how he was feeling about his own competition with Russo, Thorne said he was excited and felt ready.

“I think it is clean slate for everybody...I gotta put last year behind me and look forward,” Throne said. When asked what the starting quarterback would have to do to be able to start at Northwestern Thorne said, “Completed passes, taking care of the ball, lead the offense and put ourselves in a position to be the best offense we can be.”

Hear all of Payton Thorne’s interview here:

The overall atmosphere of all of those who spoke during the media availability was extremely positive. Looking ahead to the season, the players are excited and ready to get to work. It was mentioned a number of times just how secure they feel this year compared to what they all went through around this time last year with the COVID-19 pandemic putting the football season in jeopardy. The Michigan State team seems connected, and although there will need to be some serious competition for positions, the athletes and coaches are looking forward to the opportunity, and from what I could tell, all have welcomed the challenges.

MSU football is back, folks! Go Green!


Mel Tucker full remarks: